News from the U.S. Province

Fr. John Kselman Celebrates his 80th Birthday

Fr. John Kselman, P.S.S., celebrated his 80th birthday on February 16, 2020, at Villa Olier. John was joined by his confreres at the Villa, members of the Provincial Administration, his brother Tom Kselman, his nephew and wife, Joseph and Cristeen Kselman, along with his great niece Chloe. Fr. Kselman is pictured with his brother Tom as Tom offers a toast on the occasion.

TC Providence Hall

Theological College Providence Hall Renovation and Blessing

Fr. John C. Kemper, Provincial Superior, blessing the newly renovated Providence Hall. Assisting are Deacons Mak Garrett (left) and Ryan Hiaeshutter (right), both from the Diocese of Dallas, Texas.

Theological College now offers separate accommodations in its Providence Hall annex for eight student priests, who will enjoy the support and privileges of the seminary community while living in the renovated residence.

Previously, Theological College extended hospitality to priests striving to complete JCL,  STL, and other degrees at The Catholic University of America. More recently, the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS) crafted a five-year STL program with degree specializations in biblical, historical, systematic, liturgical, sacramental, and moral theology. Participants in this program will return  after ordination for their final year to earn an STL. As the fifth-year program was coming together in 2017 and 2018 under the direction of STRS’s Rev. Msgr. Michael Clay, Associate Dean for Graduate Ministerial Studies, Theological College’s Sulpician leaders faced space and comfort concerns for the expected increase in ordained program candidates. Very Rev. John Kemper, Provincial Superior, and Rev. Gerald McBrearity, TC Rector, were helped by Tim Murphy, TC Facilities Manager, to consider the Providence Hall annex.

For many years, Apple Tree Institute for Education Innovation had been renting the third and fourth floors of Providence Hall. In September 2018, it found a bigger, more cohesive space elsewhere in D.C. With the expertise of Suzanne Giguere of Corkill Cush Reeves Architects, plans were drafted for the vacated space: eight rooms with private baths, plus a communal kitchenette and an extra bathroom. Ms. Giguere spent several days analyzing, measuring, and floating ideas for the most efficient use of this century-old space. Providence Hall was formerly the convent for the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence, who served the domestic needs of the Sulpician Fathers and TC seminarians for almost 70 years, from 1918 to 1986.

Buch Construction, which had handled several McCormick Pavilion office space renovations, was the general contractor. According to Tim Murphy, “The biggest hurdle was to get the drawings approved by the D.C. government; we were happy to clear this hurdle with the city to begin work in November.” Other challenges included issues with asbestos removal, meticulously accomplished by Buch workers. Some of the old flooring and floor joists also had to be replaced. The contractors were able to finish the project in five months, leaving plenty of time before August for final details, such as furniture selection.

At the end of Theological College’s Orientation Week on August 24, the first full day that all students were in house to begin the 2019-2020 school year, the TC population witnessed a milestone event: the dedication of Providence Hall by Fr. Kemper. This year, the rooms will be occupied by three newly ordained TC alumni (from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Archdioceses of New York and Washington) and one graduate of the North American College (Diocese of Rockville Centre), all of whom  will be studying at Catholic University for a final year to complete their S.T.L. degrees. They will be joined in Providence Hall by three JCL candidates—two from the TC classes of 2015 (Diocese of Fort Worth) and 2017 (Archdiocese of Louisville) and one from  the Diocese of Raleigh—as well as one Maryknoll- sponsored priest from China.

While the resident priests of Providence Hall accompanied Fr. Kemper through the house to a  room with a balcony, the seminarians participated by gathering below the balcony where the dedication was taking place. The unique parallel between the former and current occupants of Providence Hall, including the Sisters’ mission in service of the formation of future priests and the mission of the priests’ being further educated to serve the people of God, highlights a providential historical continuum worthy of the profound blessings offered by Fr. Kemper for the house and the Sedes Sapietiae statues placed in the rooms.

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Sulpicians Gather

Sulpicians Gather

New definitive members (from left) Frs. Eugene Mwanza, PSS, Jaime Robledo, PSS, and Martin Burnham, PSS

Last spring, the members of the U.S. Province gathered for a week of spiritual renewal, ongoing education, and provincial business at the Archbishop Brunett Center along Puget Sound in Federal Way, Washington, from May 25 to 30.

On Memorial Day we had a special prayer service to remember three of our members who recently died—Frs. Jim Tucker, Cale Crowley, and Joe Ky. We also had a rite of welcome during our closing Mass to receive three new candidates (Frs. Shawn Gould, Neil Mulyata, and Carlos Piedrahita), to recognize four members advancing to temporary membership (Frs. Brian Carpenter, PSS, Dominic Ciriaco, PSS, Joseph Chamwaza, PSS, and Emmanuel Ichidi, PSS), and three who became definitive members (Frs. Martin Burnham, PSS, Eugene Mwanza, PSS, and Jaime Robledo, PSS).

During the rite of welcome, Fr. Anthony Pogorelc, PSS, the Director of Initial Formation, preached a homily addressing the question, “To what are we welcoming them?” He went on to say that we are welcoming them: to “work together for the mission of Christ Jesus,” to a small group of diocesan priests  who “are like disciples in a small boat and must coordinate with one another lest the boat be overturned,” to a mission that “opens us to great joy and great suffering [and] even when we have done our very best we may be dismissed, scoffed at and put off,” and, to a “striving Society” seeking to be “collaborators in both word and deed” to make the synodality of which Pope Francis speaks and which is found in our tradition “part of our ongoing practice.”

The spiritual renewal took us back to the dynamics of the early Church as seen through the characters of Peter and Paul as portrayed in the Easter readings from the Acts of the Apostles. Reflecting on their courage, their capacity to challenge one another, and their creative spirit to solidify the beginnings of the Church were sources of new inspiration for our own mission.

For our ongoing education, we moved from the first century church to the twenty-first with its pervasive influence of the internet. Fr. Ray Carey, a clinical psychologist well known among religious communities for his work on assessment and evaluation of candidates, presented the research on the effects that regular use of the internet has on the way our minds work. By referencing studies on the regular viewing of online pornography and video gaming, he described the phenomenon of neural plasticity, the modifications in the way the brain functions as a result of frequent exposure to a virtual world.

For a community like ours that is very interested in the new generation of seminarians, Fr. Carey’s presentation of the research was very timely and informative, if not shocking. No longer are we drawing candidates from a world where neighbors knew each other’s names and families ate dinner together.

The digital age is marked by anonymity that creates social isolation. Growing up in the digital age makes it convenient to immerse ourselves in a stimulating  virtual world that can be psychologically and socially damaging. Fr. Carey underscored the potential that regular internet exposure can have on developing one’s emotional intelligence and social skills.

Research shows that too much exposure to gaming and pornography is associated with increased aggression, desensitization to violence, and an overall decrease in motivation and an ability to relate to   others empathically. These aspects of our digital world should make anyone in formation take notice.

So what to do with these insights? As Fr. Carey reminded us, insights do not change behavior. Only behavior changes behavior. So we need to change our internet use, its frequency, intensity, and the conditions that surround our going online.

Such a heavy agenda for the week was offset by the serenity of being along Puget Sound, and enjoying its quiet in the fellowship of our confreres. For us Sulpicians who share a common vision, mission, and ministry but live so far apart, this week is precious. It gives us an opportunity to strengthen bonds of fraternity among confreres gathered from across the country, as well as from our African Mission a half a world away.

Mois Sulpicien 2019

Mois Sulpicien 2019

by Anthony J. Pogorelc, PSS

The Mois Sulpicien, an international Formation Program for  Sulpician candidates, was held at the Seminary Issy-les-Moulineaux from July 4 to 30, 2019. The seminary, just outside of Paris, is where our founder, Jean- Jacques Olier, lived and ministered. The  program included conferences on Sulpician topics, daily celebrations of the liturgy, as well as times for personal prayer. There were also opportunities for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the rosary, and Sulpician meditations. Participants also shared social time and meals.

In Paris, among the places participants visited were St. Sulpice and Notre Dame des Vertus, important places of pilgrimage for Fr. Olier.  There was a week of pilgrimage outside Paris to sites dear to Fr. Olier.

One U.S. participant reflected: “It was excellent to be able to visit sites important to Fr. Olier and the other early Sulpicians. Our pilgrimages put some real flesh on our history. It was particularly moving to meet the Dominican Sisters at Langeac, who pray for us daily.”

Participants from the Province of the United States included Fathers Simon Cheba and Neal Mulyata from Zambia, and Fathers Shawn Gould of St. Mary’s Seminary & University and Carlos Piedrahita of Theological College. Fr. John Kemper, PSS, Provincial, Fr. David Thayer, PSS, General Consultor, Fr. Larry Terrien, PSS, Superior General Emeritus, and Fr. Tony Pogorelc, PSS, Director of Initial Formation, also assisted in the Mois. From the provinces of France and Canada there were priests from Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Columbia, Congo, and Togo. The Sulpicians are indeed an international community. One U.S. participant noted: “For me, the most critical point of the Mois was the fraternity among the Sulpicians from the different provinces. The time together was important and edifying.”

One participant summed up the meaning of the Mois: “My take away is that every day we need to uphold and preserve our rich Sulpician history, tradition, identity, and charism so we assist the spirit of our founder, Jean-Jacques Olier, to live on.”

Mois Sulpician attendants and the Dominican Sisters at Langeac

U.S. Province participants in the Mois (from left) Fr. Tony Pogorelc, PSS, Director of Initial Formation; Sulpician Candidates: Frs. Neal Mulyata, Simon Cheba, Shawn Gould, Carlos Piedrahita; Fr. John Kemper, PSS, Provincial Superior.